WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — When she speaks at a gun-control rally in front of the State House on Saturday, Westborough mom Ilyse Levine-Kanji will share her history — one that has been no stranger to gun violence.
"Most people have a perception that gun violence happens in the inner city, and not to people like them," said Levine-Kanji, who also serves as the Chair of Westborough's School Committee.
"I think that with Sandy Hook, it just shows that gun violence can happen anywhere, to any of us," she said.
Her grandfather, Hans Wachtel, was murdered in the 1970s by hired gunmen. Years later, a 1993 mass shooting at a San Francisco office claimed the lives of nine people, including her boss and one of her clients. Levine-Kanji wrote of these tragedies on the National Public Radio blog, CommonHealth.
"The debate is often theoretical, and I think bringing a personal story helps people understand that this is not just a theoretical debate, and that it really affects real people," she said, "even 35 years later."
Levine-Kanji's story, along with others like it, helps drive the One Million Moms for Gun Control movement, which is sponsoring a Beltway March in Washington D.C. on Saturday to promote immediate "common-sense" legislation for gun control.
The Massachusetts chapter is holding a demonstration for those who can't make it to the Beltway March. The rally will run from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Boston State House and will also feature Natick representative David Linski, who will detail his recently proposed gun control legislation for Massachusetts.
Levine-Kanji said she forwarded her article to Linski's office to help him with his presentation. They subsequently asked her to speak at the rally, which she said she was "very, very reluctant to do," having never spoken in public about her story.
She said her pending presentation has been weighing heavily on her mind over the past week, but she's begun to view it as an opportunity.
"I really do feel hopeful that real change is on the horizon," she said.
The One Million Moms for Gun Control movement, according to a news release, has multiple goals, none of which are to ban guns.
"We simply support common-sense solutions to the overwhelming and increasing gun violence in America. Moms are an important voice, that when harnessed, will wield significant change," said the release. "There are 4 million NRA members; there are 84 million American moms."
The movement calls for banning bullet magazines of more than 10 rounds, requiring background checks for all gun purchasers, reporting sales of large quantities of ammunition to federal officials, and limiting the scope of concealed weapons laws at the state level, said the release.
Levine-Kanji said her history is something she will never forget, and although she's nervous about her public talk Saturday, that history has also shaped how she lives her life.
"It made me realize how precious every minute of every day is," she said.